Perceptual cleavage: definition, causes and possible treatments

The human being constantly perceives the reality around him, obtaining information from the environment through the different senses to later integrate the different data and process it in different brain nuclei.

However, sometimes alterations occur which cause objects and stimuli to be perceived incorrectly. This is the case with perceptual cleavage.

Perceptual cleavage as an alteration of perception

By perceptual cleavage we mean that type of perception alteration in which information about stimuli is not perceived in an integrated way. This can happen with information from different sensory modalities, but in general the concept of perceptual cleavage tends to refer to the separation of perceptual elements captured by the same sense, the most common case being the disintegration of visual information. .

It is important to note that the problem does not occur at the visual level or in the sensory organs., Being these fully functional. And although this is an altered perception, we are also not faced with a hallucination: the perceived stimuli are always real. The problem in question is that if we capture information correctly, we are not able to integrate it, which generates two competing perceptions.

In this way, in the face of perceptual cleavage, we see the stimulus disintegrate, separately appreciating aspects that we should see as a whole, such as the shape of objects and their content or the separation of color and form. We wouldn’t see a red apple, if not on the one hand the color red and on the other hand an apple.

Types of perceptual cleavage

There is no one type of perceptual cleavage. In general, it can be considered that, with regard to the type of excision that occurs in the same sensory modality and specifically in that of sight, there are two main types of perceptual excision: morpholysis and metachromia. In addition to this, it is possible that there is a perceptual division between different senses.

1. Morpholysis

Morpholysis is the perceptual cleavage that is only at the level of form. We are unable to gather information about the shape of objects in your content. It is possible, for example, that we see someone’s face separated from their body.

2. Metachromia

Regarding metachromia, they speak of those perceptual cleavages in which we perceive color and form separately. For example, we see them separately or the color exceeds the shape (as if we went out of the line when painting an object), or colors that do not match the real ones.

3. Disintegration of information from different sensory modalities

This is usually the dissociation between sight and hearing, although other senses can fall into this category as well. Thus, what we feel and what we see is perceived separately, as if it came from two different stimuli. For example, we are unable to relate the voice to the movement of the lips of the person in front of us. It can also happen with sight and touch, for example.

the causes

It is very common for morpholysis and metachromia to appear against the background of a psychotic epidemic. Likewise, the hyperstimulation inherent in epilepsy can also generate perceptual excision phenomena. It is not uncommon for it to appear in the face of intoxication or the consumption of substances such as psychodyseptics. Another context in which perceptual excision may appear is due to the existence of brain damage caused by traumatic brain injuries and strokes, or the compression of certain nerve pathways in the case of, for example, a tumor cerebral.

The most likely cause of this type of phenomenon is found in the dysfunction of certain spare nuclei. or nerve pathways where information from different perceptual pathways is processed and integrated, both in the same direction and in all external information. This causes different elements of the same perception to be perceived separately.


Perceptual cleavage is not a disorder in itself, but a symptom. As such, its treatment will largely depend on the type of impairment that generates it. For example, they can prescribe drugs that cancel the effect of substances taken that cause the disorder, or neuroleptics that can decrease and stop the psychotic epidemic and reduce the risk of new ones appearing. In some cases, it may be advisable to perform occupational therapy and rehabilitation which can help restore normal functioning of nerve connections.

however, what will always be advisable is to provide the patient with information about what is going on, Since this type of alteration can lead to high level of anxiety and worry.

Bibliographical references:

Belloch, A .; Sandín, B. and Ramos, F. (2002). Manual of Psychopathology, vol. I. McGraw-Hill. Madrid.

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